When the curtains rise for next week in the Whitefish Bay High School Auditorium, the community will be exposed to the school's newest rising star: Emily Pogorelc.
Some theater-goers may recognize Pogorelc from the roughly 40 plays she has appeared in over her 10-year theater career with the Bay Players, Shorewood Players, Windfall Theater and Skylight Theater among others. After graduating from high school, she said she plans to go to college to study opera singing.
An active singer since she was six years old, she was home-schooled through her middle school years, and now as a sophomore at Whitefish Bay, has deservedly taken the lead role of Millie, said theater director Amber Kind-Keppel.
"She was so incredible. She absolutely blew me away," Kind-Keppel said. "Every time she sings 'Gimme Gimme,' I grab my chest and get goosebumps."
Just last month, Pogorelc came in first place in the Northern Midwest Regional, after winning first place in the Wisconsin State Vocal contest sponsored by the Music Teachers National Competition. She heads to compete in the national vocal competition right after she completes her run as "Millie."
The role of "Millie" is especially dear to Pogorelc, who said she has wanted to play the role of a young woman finding love — and herself — in 1920s New York City.
"She is a very realistic character. She has realistic goals and wants," Pogorelc said. "She sometimes makes bad decisions, but her heart leads her to where she wants to be. Love is the thing that really motivates her."
Indeed, the play focuses on Millie Dillmount from the moment she arrives in New York, where she attempts to become a stenographer, woo her boss and control her own destiny when she discovers love in an unexpected place. The Shakesperean script starts with several different storylines that come together at the end.
Kind-Keppel said the cast of 40 students is relatively young, with freshman and senior lead chararacters working side by side, creating a unique collaborative atmosphere.
"They have been very professional and compassionate in learning from each other," she said. "There has been this cool cooperative process that I think is unique to this year."
The show features two male leads, Braden Bjella as Jimmy Smith and Zev Woskoff as Trevor Graydon III, and five female leads: Emily Pogorelc as Millie Dillmount, Laura Mesrobian as Miss Dorothy Brown, Michelle Desien as Muzzy Van Hossmere, Katie Bentley as Mrs. Meers and Brigid McBride as Miss Flannery.
"It's a very powerful show for high school girls," Kind-Keppel said. "The roles are strong and varied in their personalities."
The curtain rises at 7:30 p.m. this Friday and Saturday and March 9 and March 10. Another 2 p.m. performance will be held this Sunday. Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $8 for students and seniors and $5 for children.